May asks for more time to negotiate better Brexit
With Brexit just 47 days away, the British government asked lawmakers yesterday to give Prime Minister Theresa May more time to rework her divorce deal with the European Union.
Communities secretary James Brokenshire said Parliament would get to pass judgment on May’s Brexit plan “no later than February 27.”
The promise is a bid to avert a showdown on Thursday, when Parliament is set to debate and vote on next moves in the Brexit process. Some lawmakers want to try to seize control and steer the country toward a softer exit from the bloc.
Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29, but Parliament has rejected May’s divorce bill, leaving the prime minister to seek changes from the EU.
The UK’s bid for last-minute changes has exasperated EU leaders, who insist the legally binding withdrawal agreement can’t be changed.
The impasse risks a chaotic “no-deal” departure by the United Kingdom which could be painful for businesses and people on both sides of the Channel.
British businesses fear a no-deal Brexit will cause gridlock at ports by ripping up the trade rulebook and imposing tariffs, customs checks and other barriers between the UK and the EU, its biggest trading partner.
Austrian Foreign Minister Karin Kneissl said a “disorderly exit” was now the most likely option.
Opponents of the government accuse May of deliberately wasting time so that Parliament will face a last-minute choice between her deal and no deal.
Meanwhile, weeks of public sniggering and indignation culminated on Saturday when the British government canceled a ferry contract it had awarded to a firm with no ships.
The island nation’s break-up with the EU took an odd turn in December when it handed the unheralded Seaborne Freight company the US$17.9 million deal.
It was meant to make sure that cross-Channel trade with its closest trading partners did not grind to a halt if Britain ended up leaving without new arrangements in place.
The Seaborne Freight contract was the smallest of three emergency ferry deals transport secretary Chris Grayling quietly approved over the Christmas break.
But it quickly became the most famous — or perhaps infamous — when reporters discovered that Seaborne Freight was a startup that had never actually been involved in this line of work.
It had no ships and planned to operate from a port not suited for the types of large vessels needed to move stacks of loaded containers across the sea.